Once upon a time four writers had a dream. They made their dream come true.

I’ve tried to write this column a dozen times in the last month. I’m having trouble because I’m deeply moved by the subject. How to be honest. How to convey what I’m feeling. How to let go and move on. No matter how many different ways I begin, I end up in the same place, so please bear with me.

Once upon a time there were four women who loved to write and tell stories so much they formed a critique group that met regularly for years. Once a week they gathered to pour over their stories, offering suggestions and comments, and most of all encouragement. If a writer was entering a contest, she’d challenge the others, “You should enter too.”

Once a year these writers scheduled a writers’ retreat, taking a weekend to write, explore and laugh. One year they tramped around the Idaho ghost town of Silver City. Another year they explored Idaho City and its cemetery. Rocky Bar. The Hagerman valley. They attended bookfests and conferences and cheered each other on.

Eventually the writers organized what they called the Other Bunch Press. They held workshops; they published a book.

Life happens and things change. Jennifer Sandmann moved to Washington and Dixie Thomas Reale is writing stories from the clouds, or maybe the ocean where she loved to “swim” with the whales. Patricia Santos Marcantonio and I remain here in southern Idaho writing our fingers to stubs and loving every minute of it.

If you’ve been following us on Facebook you know that things are changing here at Other Bunch Press. We’ve changed our name as well as our website. What hasn’t changed is our passion for telling stories and sharing our love of writing with others. Our motto, “Everyone has a story, what’s yours?” remains the same. Our passion for bringing writers together is constant.

Pat and I are carrying on, happy to announce the formation of our new partnership, River St. Press. We’re releasing a middle grade book this spring called Billie Neville Takes a Leap. Please watch for it, it’s the story of a little girl who has a dream to be a daredevil like Evel Knievel. We’re also working on the third book of our Snake River Plain series, an anthology of family recipes, which we plan to release in early 2015. We will continue to hold workshops and bring writers together. We will continue to tell our stories.

We are grateful for your support and continued interest. Please come with us as begin our new adventure as River St. Press.com.

-Bonnie Dodge

 

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Coming soon a new kid’s book: ‘Billie Neville Takes a Leap’

A new kids book coming soon.

A new kid’s book coming soon.

Ten-year-old Billie wants to be a daredevil, just like her hero Evel Knievel. She also wants a best friend. Riding “the best bike in the whole world,” Billie’s desperate to enter a bike jumping contest with three boys named The Meanies and show them her cool skills. When Evel comes to town to jump the Snake River Canyon, Billie learns she has to be a friend to make friends and that not all heroes have to soar over canyons.

By Bonnie Dodge and Patricia Santos Marcantonio

Call for stories and recipes

In honor of our friend and partner Dixie Reale, we are seeking recipes and stories for a new anthology of recipes from the Snake River Plain. Dixie wrote a weekly column from 1999 to 2009 for The Times-News and its supplement the Ag Weekly called “Grandma’s Recipe Box.” She was always sharing her recipes along with funny anecdotal stories. In that tradition we are looking for recipes and the stories behind them. The stories may be fiction, non-fiction, poetry or essays related to a family recipe.

 

Submission Guidelines:

 

1) The following word limits will be considered:

For fiction, nonfiction, essays and poetry – a story up to 500 words. Recipes are not included in the word count.

 

2) You may submit more than one recipe. There is no entry fee.

 

3) Preference will be given to Idaho writers and/or recipes relating to Idaho.

 

4) Use standard manuscript format—double-spaced, 12pt serif font Times, Times New Roman, or Courier New with one-inch margins. Poetry may be single-spaced. Please incorporate your submission into the body of an email or attach entry as a PDF file. No other attachments will be opened. 

 

5) Include your name, address, email address, phone number and word count with your submission.

 

6) Submissions will be accepted until April 1, 2014. We plan to release the anthology in the fall of 2014. Please send submissions to otherbunchpress@hotmail.com. Please put the words “recipe anthology submission” in the subject line. We will accept email entries only. You can submit your entry here.

 

7) If your story is accepted, you will receive one printed copy of the book.

 

Dixie loved to write and we would encourage you to have fun writing. We envision this anthology as a collection of great Idaho recipes and stories. This is your opportunity to share your family’s favorite recipe with others as well as see some of your work in print.

 

For inspiration check out Dixie’s story and recipe Celebrate harvest bounty with fresh fruit printed in the Ag Weekly on August 29, 2009. 

 

Want to be a better writer? Read good books, watch good movies, TV and plays

You hear the advice a lot at writing conferences and in writing books. Read. Read. Read. As a lover of movies and writer of screenplays, to that advice I will add watch good movies, TV and plays.
Why? Because you learn so damn much about everything. Pacing. Voice. Conflict. Dialogue. Description. Character. In other words, what makes a good story. What makes good writing.
When I started writing a psychological thriller, I read Thomas Harris’ “Red Dragon” about four times. I saw how effective it was to tell both the stories of the antagonist and protagonist. For example, in the case of the killer Francis Dolarhyde we learned how he became a monster and at first feel for the abuse that turned him into one. It also ramped up the conflict when the hero and villain meet. In my book, “The Weeping Woman” (Sunbury Press) I also presented the story through the eyes of villain and the detective hunting her down to show their contrast and similarities.
For a great script taut as a drum, I read Brian Helgeland’s script, “L.A. Confidential” many times.
The power of voice I found in “Funeral for Horses” and “Fight Club.”
How profound point of view can be in “To Kill a Mockingbird.”
Most any Quentin Tarantino script shows off unique and fantastic dialogue.
In “Breaking Bad” and “The Sopranos” I discovered what makes a great character, namely Walter White and Tony Soprano.
For great writing pure and simple, any Tennessee Williams play.
Grace of language, damn great characters and heart wrenching plot was all found in William Styron’s “Sophie’s Choice.”
You get the picture.
As writers, we don’t want to imitate those other writers, but we should analyze what makes them so good. And hopefully, somewhere find our own voices.
As a bonus, we also get to read great books and watch great movies, TV and plays, which is okay with me.

Look what we found

at our local Barnes & Noble!

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Don’t have a copy of your own yet? You can get one here.

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What We’re Doing When We’re Supposed to be Writing

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Happy New Year! What are your New Year resolutions?

Lose weight. Exercise more. Adopt a healthier diet. Drink more water.
You too? Do these top your list of New Year resolutions?

I know all about goals. When I worked in Corporate America, I had to set goals. Short-term goals, the one-year plan. Long-term goals, the five-year plan. I had to write them down and submit them to my supervisor signed as if I was pledging my life away. As a corporate robot I set goals, wrote them down and charted my way to success.

What worked in my corporate America world, doesn’t work so well in my Happy Writer World. I’ve been a writer long enough to know that in happy writer world the best laid plans often end up in the garbage. Rejection letters sting and waiting for agents and editors to return calls feels like a waste of time not to mention control. My goal might be to publish a book or a short story but the publishing world has other ideas. It all boils down to what can I do better. How can I make this story float above the slush pile?

Recently author Cheryl Strayed summed up precisely on Facebook how I feel about New Year goals and resolutions:
“Is there ever an end to the daily struggle to be a better person? I’m not asking this rhetorically. I’m wondering if there’s a time when you reach it, when you say “I can no longer think of any way to be a better person.” (Or maybe there are people who do not ponder every day how they can be a better person?) When I say “better person” I don’t mean that I constantly tell myself how awful I am but rather I’m very aware of the ways in which I could’ve done better as a friend, as a mom, as a spouse, as a sister, as a writer, as a woman with some serious aspirations for this thing called “balance” (ie: time for exercise, lounging, sex, thrift-store shopping, voracious reading). On a pretty much daily basis I think of how I’ve failed in many of these areas. It’s not a self-hate thing, but rather a deep desire I have to someday fall asleep thinking, “Well done, Strayed. You’ve got it down.” I’m reflecting on this as the first day of 2014 comes to an end here on the west coast of America. Not thinking “Well done, Strayed” but thinking instead, “Maybe next year. Maybe tomorrow. Keep going. Keep walking. Just try to do better in every action, intention, thought and deed.””

I once sat in on a lecture by writer William C. Anderson. When asked a question about “how to know when to quit editing” he said that he was so relieved when BAT-21 was finally published because he could finally stop changing things and move on to something else. He said nothing ever felt perfect, nothing ever felt “done.” Most writers I know strive for perfection when theoretically we know there is no perfect, only better.

I’m struggling with these issues today as I think about what I want to accomplish in 2014. How can I write better? What can I do to propel my work forward? How can I achieve balance in this less than perfect world?

For me the answer is simple. Begin each day with optimism knowing I’m doing the best I can. Dig in knowing there will be ups and downs and some days will be better than others.

C. S. Lewis said, “ You are never too old to set another goal or to dream a new dream.” So here’s my New Year resolution. Relax and enjoy the journey. It’s a brand new year full of wonderful possibilities.

What are your New Year goals and resolutions? Do you set daily word count goals? How do your reward yourself when you meet them?
-Bonnie Dodge